What you Need To Know

Opinions expressed in my articles are my own, and opinions in the articles and comments section written by others are strictly those of the author or commenter and not me.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why I Voted Republican In The Primary This Year...

Montana has an open primary. I have never voted in the Republican primary before. Ever. Never even considered it. Ever. So why did I vote in the Republican primary this year? Well, lots of reasons.

This year is a really unusual one. Citizens United for one. I don't even want to get started on that democracy destroying piece of judicial activism. So I won't.

Then there is the usual hue and cry over voter fraud by the Republicans. This is a total red herring - its true aim is to disenfranchise huge numbers of mostly democratic voters - the elderly, the young - mostly college students, and the poor. All these demographic groups disproportionately vote Democratic. What nice targets they make since they also disproportionately don't have government-issued ID either. Various estimates I have seen have listed upwards of three million people who voted in 2008 may not be allowed to vote in 2012 because of these new laws. This is nuts. Lots of these people have voting cards from the last election indicating that they were valid voters! But that's not good enough now.

Here locally, we had another little thing. The local Democratic party ran an advertisement seeking people to fill its precinct captain slots. Several prominent Republicans signed up to run. When challenged about this - they all played dumb and tried to claim that they weren't really Republicans even though one of them was the GOP Party finance chair, and another had previously been a GOP statewide office holder. It was interesting though - the backlash got good Democratic candidates for all of the precinct captain positions out and running campaigns - especially in the precincts that had these Republican 'trojan horses' in them.

And of course, there was our last legislative session. Instead of being about "jobs jobs jobs", the Republican led legislature spent its (mercifully short) session trying to overturn voter initiatives that had been passed not once but twice banning cyanide leach heap mining in the state. Trying to overturn Missoula's anti-discrimination ordinance that prevented job and housing discrimination against gay and transgender individuals. Trying to overturn the voter initiative for medical marijuana. And on and on and on. It got so bad that our Democratic Governor went out and registered a brand - had branding irons made up, and staged a photo op at the end of the session where he "branded" vetos on all this ridiculous legislation they had passed. Oh, and they barely got the budget done at the last minute because they had spent so much time on all this other foolishness.

Sooooo.....,.,.,I was sitting here with my two ballots. (I always vote absentee - I like having the time to really think about who I am voting for, having the time to research the candidates, and I like my paper ballot) I looked at the Democratic one. Most of the candidates were running unopposed. Or the candidates I preferred were running way ahead in the polls if there was a contested race. Then I looked at the Republican ballot. Wow! Now there was an opportunity! There were seven candidates running for governor. Three for the open US Representative seat. Two for the US Senate Seat. Four for Secretary of State. Three for Attorney General. Aha! I could vote in this one and really make an influence here.

In the race for governor/lt governor, I made the choice to vote for one of the lesser candidates rather than the two guys who were leading in the polls. I figured that voting for one of the lesser candidates would just split the race further and make it harder for them to declare a winner. The Democratic candidate, Steve Bullock, is very popular and is our current Attorney General, and is very likely to beat whatever Republican emerges from this pack of idiots anyway.

In the race for attorney general, not much separated the three of them. They were almost carbon copies of each other, all spouting RNC talking points. Hmmm. Throw a dart?

For secretary of state, I chose the guy with the least amount of experience - and he was the only one of the four who DIDN'T want to overturn our same-day voter registration law. That must make the rest of them mad at him so that's why I chose him.

Now we get to the two national races. This is a horse of a different color. Montana is considered a "red" state, even though both of our Senators are Democrats (they are both blue dogs however), and our Governor and several of our other elected officials are as well. Our at-large US Representative, Dennis Rehberg is a Republican though, and he has been in office for 16 years. He is leaving the House to run against Senator Tester, a first-term Senator who beat out a Republican incumbent by only 3000 votes.

In the US Senate race, Denny Rehberg is being primaried by a guy who has no money and zero name recognition. In fact, I think he has literally stopped campaigning because he has run out of money. I voted for him anyway. Rehberg has a war chest of about $3.4 million - and is beholden to every special interest group out there. He is formidible - however he has made some serious gaffes out there which will hurt him - and are. Recent polling shows Tester with a 5-point lead for the first time. Yay!

In the US House race, 3 Republican candidates are running, and 6 Democrats are running in this primary. On the Democratic side, Kim Gillan, my preferred candidate is polling well, has a good amount of money, and has been campaigning hard all over the state so she has good name recognition - a difficult feat in this geographically huge state with its sparse population. I think she will do well. However, with the states normal conservative bent, I felt I needed to be a little more careful with my vote here.

Of the three Republican candidates here were my choices: A 57-year-old from Connecticut who thinks Star Wars is the answer to all of our problems. A former marine who is currently a student in Colorado who thinks that some combination of Grover Norquist/Ayn Rand/Ron Paul economics is just what we need. A businessman who has lived and built a business in Bozeman who wants to eliminate just about every form of tax there is and half of the cabinet positions and the IRS except for defense of course but with no plan to pay for any of that but was totally incoherent because he wanted to eliminate the income tax on the one hand but institute a flat tax on the other. Whuh?

Yeah. And faced with the real possibility that one of these nuts might just wind up being the actual US Representative from the great State of Montana, I thought, gee - I better choose well here. So, I chose the Star Wars guy. Because of all the nuts - he was the least nuts. Yeah I know he just moved here. But that guy from Bozeman is a freak six ways from breakfast. And that other guy isn't even here NOW!

There. I'm done. Now I need a big, stiff drink. I cannot believe I did that. I also need a bath in some decontamination stuff, brain bleach, and eyewash! Shudder!

It was fun!

Oh, I forgot - I got to choose which nutbag to vote for in the Presidential election too. I chose between Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and of course, Mitt Romney. At first, I wavered between Newt and Rick. But even though I really think that Ron Paul is really dangerous - I also like the idea that he has been collecting a huge amount of delegates behind everyones back and that although Mitt thinks he has the nomination sewed up, Ron Paul just might throw a hugh monkey wrench into that little scenario. The PTB will never let Ron Paul be the nominee. Jes' sayin'. So I voted for Ron Paul. Throw that monkey wrench!!!

There! Hope you all voted too. I know it's hard - but if you don't vote - you don't get to complain after!!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Someone Sent Me Some Spam Email, So Why Am I The One Feeling Bad?

My friend sent me an email with the subject line "Important!". She's my friend so I opened it of course. It was one of those emails about some supposed massive threat to my computer about a virus that was going to destroy my life as I know it and eat my computer and the desk it sits on and probably my house too and oh by the way snopes.com said it was true and yadda yadda yadda.

So, of course, being me, I clicked on the link for snopes.com just to see what they said. Well, whaddya know. Snopes.com said it was a cross between a Hoax and a bunch of out-of-date information. Seems that once upon a time (a couple of years ago) there was a virus, but as you can well imagine, all the wonderful anti-virus people out there of course wrote an anti-virus program to take care of it almost as soon as it appeared. The link that you had to click on to actually get this virus has been disabled. Long time ago. And yes - you had to actually click on a link to get it.

The hoax part is that this thing has just recently appeared again and is being passed around the internet as if it is a real threat right now - today.

So now I have wasted five minutes reading the dumb thing, and reading the article on Snopes.com. I am mad that my friend has wasted my time sending this thing to me and every single other person in her address book and that they also have had to either take the time to do what I did - or if they didn't - just grabbed their address books and passed it along without checking to everyone they know - inflicting the thing on countless other people to waste their time on.

So I hit REPLY ALL. I wrote back that it was a Hoax and that if someone had just looked at Snopes.com like I did they would have realized that it was a hoax and for everyone to just stop passing it on!

So now my friend is mad at ME! She's mad that I am mad about this email. She's mad that I replied to all her friends.

So now why do I feel bad? She's the one who sent the stupid thing to ME in the first place!

These crap emails waste so much of the entire nation's collective time - forwarding them. Compiling address lists of all our friends to send them to. More groups of people opening and reading them because of course, they are from our friends so we don't just delete them! Every time, five minutes here, five minutes there. It keeps adding up. We all don't have enough time as it is in our lives for the things that do really matter whether it is our family, our work, our spiritual pursuits or whatever. Then we have to lose those precious minutes on this kind of junk mail. And when we find out that it really is just junk mail and react badly to it - our friends who sent it to us in the first place, and wasted our time with it in the first place, want US to feel bad?

And the really crap part of it is that I do. And I don't know why. So now I am mad too.

GRRRRRR! Whoever starts this stuff - I hate YOU!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What About The Infrastructure?

A couple of weeks ago on the news it was reported that sales of the much-touted Chevy Volt were lagging far behind expectations. Many reasons were cited for the failure of the public to accept this "all electric" car even though supposedly it is supposed to 'save the planet' and 'get us off foreign oil' and all that.

But here's my take on it. First of all - the car only goes 40 miles before it needs to be recharged. GM says well - that's because the average person only drives 40 miles for commuting and so forth on a daily basis for commuting. So what's the problem. After that the car has a gasoline engine that can take over and drive the rest of the way.

Well, here's the problem. That 40 miles is an average. That means that lots of people have a more that 40-mile commute. And so they actually drive the car using the gasoline engine as much or maybe more than they do using the electric one. To commute back and forth to work. Kind of defeats the purpose.

And then there are the weekends. And the extended business trips. Or whatever. When you get where you are going - there is no place to plug the thing in. No plug-in places at any hotels or motels. No plug in places at restaurants. Or amusement parks. Or any other tourist attractions. Or at gas stations. Or at a parking meter. Or anywhere else for that matter. In other words - no infrastructure.

Plus the car costs $40,000!

It is kind of hard to justify paying a premium price for a vehicle that is tethered to your garage. If we are going to expect people to get on the "all electric vehicle" bandwagon - we have to commit to the infrastructure to support them. And that means plug-in refueling stations at all the places I just mentioned - restaurant parking lots, hotels and motels, parking meters, tourist destinations, convention centers, anyplace where people go. This stuff must precede the car sales - otherwise there will be no car sales. GM (and Nissan) cannot be expected to continue to produce all-electric vehicles if they are not selling. And customers cannot be expected to buy these cars if there is no infrastructure to support them. Simple as that. Nothing else matters.

It's the infrastructure - stupid!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why Are Men So Afraid of Women?

I just read an excellent piece by Sara Robinson at Alternet on this topic: Why Patriarchal Men Are Utterly Petrified of Birth Control -- And Why We'll Still Be Fighting About it 100 Years From Now

(You should go read her entire piece - it is fascinating. She is one of my favorite writers - she is described as a futurist and an excellent one indeed!)

The crux of the matter is that men are basically afraid. (Not every single man - I am generalizing here I know. My apologies to the good guys!) Things have changed because of birth control (yeah I know, that was 50 years ago) and they don't like it and they want to change it back to the way things were BBC. (Before Birth Control) They liked it when they were in charge and women were barefoot and pregnant. They liked it when women had no say over their own bodies. Or their own finances, jobs, careers, lifestyles, or almost anything else. They liked it when women were around for one purpose and one purpose only - having and raising kids. And that's it.

And here's what they just don't get. Women aren't going to go back. So yes. There is going to be a fight. And it's going to be long. And probably bloody. But it has to be fought. Because we cannot be a fair and just society if half of the people in it are not allowed to have a say in how they are treated, in how they will live their lives, in how and when or if they choose to have and raise children.

I have heard the comments that "women were penetrated when they got pregnant, and they will be penetrated again to have the abortion, so why are they objecting to being penetrated for the transvaginal ultrasound?" It's a little matter of consent, dammit! Unless the woman was raped in the first place, she consented to the sex. If she wants an abortion, she is obviously consenting to that. But these government-sponsored, non-medically necessary transvaginal ultrasounds? That she has not, and does not, consent to. And under the law, non-consent to penetration of any sort, IS rape!

And then we have the spectacle of a bunch of men wearing dresses (the Catholic bishops) pronouncing that birth control for all women in this country should not be a part of any health care insurance because they object. Never mind that not everyone in this country is a member of the Catholic faith. And never mind that 98 percent of Catholic women use or have used birth control in the face of their own church teaching. And never mind that these guys are the ones who have molested and/or covered up for molesting priests for decades - not just in this country but everywhere. Yup. We should all listen to them!

No, women will not go back. And yes, women will fight back. In Virginia, a coalition of womens advocacy groups has formed a new PAC The Womens Strike Force. The name kind of says it all! Check out their website. I hope more of these happen in every state! We need them.

And all you men out there - stop being so afraid! Women just want to be your partners. Women being able to make decisions doesn't take anything away from you - it makes all of us stronger. When women are 'equal', everyone wins - including all you men! Real men understand this and are cheering their strong women on - their mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, and friends. So buck up guys! Stop treating women like moronic little kids. Accept that women are perfectly capable of making decisions about their lives and bodies - just like you! And we'll all be better for it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Police vs Protesters (of all sorts)

I've been watching with dismay as peaceful protesters in a large number of our cities across the nation have been pepper sprayed, beaten with batons, shot with tear gas cannisters, knocked down with flash-bang grenades, sprayed with tear gas, shot with rubber bullets, had sound cannons used on them, run over with motor bikes, pushed, kicked, punched, and arrested for walking on public sidewalks, walking in public streets, camping in public parks, being customers of banks, and just generally exercising their rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution.

In addition, they have had their property confiscated and in violation of laws on the books everywhere it has been thrown into garbage trucks, run over with bulldozers, burned, poured water on, deliberately destroyed, or conveniently "lost". These possesions include the usual tents, sleeping gear, clothing and other personal items, but in the larger encampments also include medical supplies and expensive medical equipment, cooking equipment and food with which the Occupy groups are feeding not only themselves but lots of homeless and other food-needy people as well. And at the NYC Occupy, a library of over 5,000 books was apparently destroyed as well.

Mayor Jean Quan of Oakland, California revealed that the massive evictions with all the police brutality were a coordinated effort among many mayors. There were also rumors that there may have been assistance from the Department of Homeland Security as well, although that has not been confirmed.

And so, the question is....what are all these mayors and others so afraid of?

This comment was posted on a story on the excellent blog Crooks and Liars

Eric.Arthur.Blair — 11/24/11 9:01am
A friend of mine told me that he got an e-mail with pictures of people camping out at malls and Best Buys and Wal-Marts and Targets waiting for Black Friday.

What a country! People who camp out on private property to profane a supposedly sacred holiday with naked acquisitiveness, greed and commercialism are not only tolerated, but applauded, while those who camp out in public spaces to protest injustice are beaten, sprayed with chemical weapons and arrested.

Point well taken, and given the events of Black Friday where a shopper resorted to using pepper spray on other shoppers in order to gain access to some desired item, even more appropriate than usual.

But I'd like to go a little farther back - to last year. Remember the dawn of the Tea Party? Where the "protesters" would show up in ridiculous costumes complete with tea bags decorating their hats and shirts, and either loudly claiming to or in some places openly carrying guns? These same protesters making loud threats against the President, members of Congress and Justices of the Supreme Court? These same protesters telling us that if they didn't get their way at the ballot box they would get their way by using 'Second Amendment remedies'? A congressional candidate's assistant (he's now in Congress!) who was literally asking people to take up arms and form an insurrection against the government?

And now I ask you, where were the police in riot gear? Where was the pepper spray? All the arrests? The rubber bullets, the tear gas, the beatings, the confiscations, the massed men in blue?

Yes, they were no where to be seen. All that anti-government stuff from the Tea Parties was ignored by law enforcement. Maybe because the Tea Parties were not really a grass-roots uprising but a bought and paid for operation of the Koch brothers, and all law enforcement and city mayors etc knew it all along.

And that is what really scares them about Occupy. It is not funded by the Kochs or anyone else. History shows us over and over again, that when the income disparity gets to great between the rich and everyone else, when the powerful become too much so and the powerless come to feel their powerlessness too much so, there comes a tipping point. And the powerless and poor decide to rise up. At first it is just a few, and they are individuals. But they begin to gather together. And the groups become larger. Soon they become powerful. And when that happens, the tables get turned. Suddenly the rich and powerful are targets and they lose everything - including their wealth and in most cases, their lives as well. Yes, they are afraid. They should be. They have let their greed run amok. They have taken and taken and taken. They have said that there is never enough for them to acquire - they must always take more. More than their share. And the people from whom that share is taken are to blame for their plight. But deep down they always knew that someday would come the reckoning. That day is here.

Occupy is still small. But it is growing, and the attacks on it by law enforcement at the behest of the city governments is actually helping the movement grow even faster. Each time there is an attack - the watchers are galvanized into action. They see the unfairness of the police with all their weapons against the peaceful protesters and it resonates with them because that is how life feels right now. And the protesters are doing something about it. Finally someone is doing something. The watchers are not alone. So they go join up.

I live in a small town. We have a tiny Occupy group. Our police and mayor have decided to let them be. They are camped on the courthouse lawn. They voluntarily left for Veterans Day so the festivities could take place. When they came back, the encampment was much smaller. But we are also a hard winter place. It is very cold here now. Our Occupy group has a really big tent now - and almost all of them are inside that one tent - much easier to keep warm, and interested people can come in and talk, participate in their GA (General Assembly) and pick up some literature without freezing as well. Who's to say that a raid on this tiny encampment might not help them out? Or not.

Our news media has been on the side of the mayors and law enforcement through the writing of headlines. See if you can spot how the bias operates. "Protesters In Altercation with Police At ..."

When you see that headline it kind of sets up the idea that the protesters started something. The way the headline should have read is "Police Attack Peaceful Protesters At ..." because that is actually what happened.

Kind of changes the perspective, doesn't it?

And finally, there is the discussion about the militarization and terrorist-targeted training of all of our police agencies across the country. But that is a subject for another complete post. For now - the protesters are winning - even though they appear to be losing if you only look at the street battles and who is going to jail.

Interesting note: There have been over 5,000 people jailed in Occupy protests across the country so far. More than were put in jail during all the protests in Iran after their so-called illegal elections, and for which our government imposed sanctions and called for the Iranian government to stop suppressing the protesters rights to criticize their own government and to allow free speech. Very interesting indeed!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

When the State Murders Someone...

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the death penalty in the aftermath of a number of incidents in the past few weeks. I am generally opposed to the practice but that feeling has been a general one for the most part. I am opposed because I don't feel that it is a deterrent. I believe it harms the people who have to carry out the executions. And I deeply believe that our justice system is so flawed that we can never be sure that the person we are putting to death is truly and unequivocally guilty beyond all doubt. Recent events have solidified my position and clarified it for me in an almost agonizing way.

In the past few weeks several incidents have come up. The first being the obnoxious cheering by audience members at the announcement by Texas Governor Rick Perry that he had presided over 234 executions during his time as governor. What Perry didn't mention and the press didn't bother to either was that at least one of those executions turns out to be almost certainly of an innocent man - Cameron Todd Willingham. Perry claims he has no problem sleeping at night and doesn't believe that there have been any problems in his state. However the Willingham case was being investigated and Perry fired the chief investigator and ordered the commission that was looking into it to terminate its inquiry. Another board that routinely reviews cases such as this was told that it could review any case in Texas they wanted to - except the Willingham case. So much for that awesome certainty.

Two more executions were scheduled in Texas a couple of weeks ago. One of them was a man who participated in a particularly nasty racist killing, confessed to that killing, refused his appeals and claimed he didn't mind being put to death. Some of the family members of the victim objected to the death penalty in this case.

The other case was stayed by the Supreme Court for some technical issues for a while but then allowed to go forward.

And of course, there is Troy Davis. Troy Davis was no angel. He may have been present when the officer was killed. The so-called ballistic evidence was flawed and proven to be so and testified to be flawed in one of Davis' appeal hearings. Of the nine witnesses who testified against him, seven have recanted, and several of those have pointed the finger at one of the two remaining witnesses as the actual shooter. Many of the witnesses have said they were threatened by the actual shooter, or by the police themselves. No other physical evidence ties Davis to the shooting. Is he guilty? It is a pretty paltry case on which to put someone to death.

My point is this - in the end it seemed like the District Attorney (who said he would have never sought the death penalty if he was trying the case today), the Board of Parole and Pardons (who stated that the witness recantations caused them to have serious doubts about Davis' guilt), the Georgia Supreme Court (who voted 3-2 to uphold his conviction - the dissenters said that the trial was too racially charged to be fair), the US Supreme Court (voted 5-4 not to stay the execution), all seemed more interested in upholding the process rather than interested in upholding justice. And there was the really incredible statement by Justice Scalia that "there is nothing in the Constitution that says we have to set an innocent man free if he has been convicted by a jury of his peers." WTF??? And yes, Scalia was talking about Troy Davis.

Process is the paperwork, the following the procedures, the filing the briefs, the arguments and so on. But doing the things that are "normally" done just for the sake of doing them. Not rocking the boat. And certainly not taking a stand on the actual case because that would be having to admit somewhere, somehow, that someone or a bunch of someones made an awful mistake.

That the guy who really killed that policeman is still walking around out there loose. And he still is - even though Troy Davis is now dead and buried. That all the pressuring the witnesses and lying about those bullet casings and all the rest got someone on death row so they could say they got the guy. Only they didn't. So the family of the slain officer could get closure. Except they won't get that. Killing Troy Davis won't bring back their son/father/husband. Killing the guy who really killed him won't either, unfortunately.

But no one will now ever know the truth. Because Davis is dead. Now everyone will stop looking. The investigation is closed. The real killer got away with it. He's been bragging to people about it.


I read a scholarly paper about crime and punishment a lot of years ago. The real deterrent is the swiftness and the surety of the punishment, not the severity of it. Especially here when the death penalty is so unevenly applied, and because of the appeals process, which is also very uneven, and which takes forever. In the Davis case - 22 years.

People who commit horrible crimes are not thinking to themselves "Gee. I shouldn't do this because I will probably get caught and if I do they will put me to death."

No. They are thinking "Gee. If I do this I probably won't get caught, but if I do I can get a good lawyer and he can probably get me off."

That is why the death penalty is not a deterrent. Only about 60% of murders are solved, and only a very small portion of those are considered death penalty cases. Several states do not currently have the death penalty as an option. That fact has not seemed to affect murder rates on those states.

The cost of incarceration is an argument given by some death penalty proponents as a reason to put people to death. However the idea that killing someone to save money is a reason for doing it is pretty abhorrent on its own. Never mind that it is a false premise. The costs of a capital murder trial plus the appeals and the execution process far exceed the costs of even a lengthy incarceration. Estimates range between about $32,000 to $47,000 per year depending on the state and the facility. The cost of a death penalty case from start to finish (which may include a couple decades of incarceration at the upper end of the price spectrum) ranges from a low of about $1.2 million to a high of nearly $3.5 million. So if saving money is your argument then you should be arguing to abolish the death penalty.

But the argument should be on the moral grounds. If we believe that it is wrong to kill, then it is wrong to kill, period. It is just as wrong for the state - representing all of us - to coldly and with premeditation and much planning and forethought to kill someone - as it was for that individual to do so. After all, as Keith Olbermann stated, "at least the individual has some excuse, as poor as it may have been, for what he or she did. We, that is, the state on our behalf, do not."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

When did Rush Limbaugh Become King of the United States?

Something happened while I was asleep. Rush Limbaugh became King of the United States. Grover Norquist apparently is his Chief Financial Officer. How this happened is beyond me - but it is a fact.

Here is the evidence. John Boehner, the former Speaker of the House - now just a puppet who mouths platitudes fed to him by King Limbaugh, had received a request from the former President, Barack Obama, to speak before a joint session of Congress. Mr. Boehner said okay. But then King Limbaugh heard about this and he was outraged. Outraged I tell you. He threw a hissy fit. He screamed and yelled as only King Limbaugh can. So of course Mr. Boehner had to pretend that he didn't really say yes to the pretend President. So Mr. Boehner sent a letter to the pretend President and told him that the House would be too busy doing other things like re-naming post offices and stuff and besides they wouldn't have time to do the security sweep that takes three hours even though they were being given a week's notice. So could the pretend President just come another time? And of course, the pretend President said well, yes, of course. We cannot afford to make King Limbaugh unhappy now, can we?

The Republicans are in charge of the nation's money right now. And almost every one of them has signed a pledge given to them by Grover Norquist. One that says they absolutely under no circumstances will ever ever ever raise a single red cent in taxes. And even if it means destroying the country - they are all determined to do just that. They are on a campaign to balance the budget, pay off all our debt and do it all without raising one cent of revenue. Because Grover Norquist says so.

I thought I was just having a nightmare. Turns out I wasn't. I'm wide awake. I keep pinching myself and wondering what universe I woke up in.